The Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU) made their presence known in the Couper Administration Building yesterday, taping their “Petition For a Living Wage” to the stairwell.

This latest protest comes after the completion of GSEU’s petition, which saw over 1,500 people from across the campus and beyond sign in support of the “GSEU Binghamton Living Wage Campaign.” Beginning last November, the GSEU has organized various initiatives in an attempt to raise the wages of Binghamton University Graduate Assistants (GA), Teaching Assistants (TA) and other positions, including a protest earlier last month. Members have claimed that most graduate student workers earn a median salary of $19,428 per year, compared to the minimum living wage of over $34,000 according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator.

Beginning in the late afternoon, members of GSEU alongside other supporters first gathered on the green outside of the administration building. Once there, protest signs and slogan sheets were passed out to protesters, and many wore shirts with phrases advocating for the campaign. Emily Blakley, president of GSEU and a sixth-year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in cognitive and brain studies, described the crowd Wednesday as “engaging.”

“They cheered at all the right moments, and I think it means that anybody who came who may have never really engaged in this before, I’m hoping came away with thinking this is an important thing, but also that they had a bit of a good time being in a group like that so they come back,” Blakley said. “But every time you stand up there and you look at a crowd of people who show up for each other, because that’s the only way you get things done and see that people power, that force, it means so much to us after the month of planning just to see people come out and be like ‘yeah we care.’”

After the group had fully come together, multiple members of GSEU spoke about the campaign and its goals. Intermixed with the speeches were various chants and verbal answers from the crowd to questions posed by the speakers. After the speeches concluded, the group embarked on a march around the Spine.

Jonathan Hagofsky, a fourth-year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy, described his motivations for supporting the campaign as being able to afford necessities that come easy in other jobs.

“It would mean for me to become something other than a graduate student slaving away at their job, at their research and at their other obligations,” Hagofsky said. “I would have the flexibility to do basic things that other people do, like own a car, even a used car.”

After the march concluded, the protesters then entered the administration building to drop off a printed version of the petition. Once inside a few members of the group took turns reading selected statements writing by anonymous graduate students, before another member read the text of the petition. When no one from administration came out to address the group, they proceeded to tap the petition to the stairwell.

Blakley described the action of taping the petition as preplanned and akin to Martin Luther’s “96 theses”.

“It’s this, like, powerful movement of ‘here are our demands’, and it is a sign that we were here and they weren’t,” Blakley said. “It’s nice to leave a piece of evidence behind. So it was a really big symbolic movement of, ‘we were here, here’s our demands, you didn’t listen.’ And I’m going to follow up with them. I am going to email [BU President Harvey Stenger] the petition with all 1500 signatures as well. I know that he knows that it’s there, but just to make sure.”

Lucas Williams, a campus organizer for GSEU and a third-year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics, expressed his appreciation for the turnout to the petition drop.

“So many people care about this issue,” Williams said. “I mean, this is an issue that affects all of us. The range that TAs and GAs at [BU] are paid is from $11,000 all the way up to $27,000 while a living wage is $34,000. So this is an issue for everyone here, some more than others, but this affects us all. So it was amazing to see so many people here.”

Moving forward, Blakley said other initiatives and potentially monthly events are in the works to further support the campaign. Representatives from the Union have also met with Kathryn Madigan, the chair of the BU Council, and Donald E. Hall, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, according to Blakley.

With the petition having come to a close and being dropped, Blakley said she was thankful for the support from the campus community.

“I am 100 percent grateful for the people who showed up and signed the petition,” Blakley said. “The fact that upon making that petition scroll and seeing the people who signed, the fact is that over 600 undergraduates filled out our petition. The fact that that group is our biggest group of petition signers, and those are our students. Our students are the one who really stepped forward, and undergraduates are starting to realize that their education is because of us.”